Dhuni Kolhu is impossibly beautiful; only 660 metres long and 290 wide, it’s fringed by the whitest sand, the bluest sea, palm trees and sun-bleached boats. Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu has 98 authentic Maldivian-style villas including some out on the lagoon itself. The villas are circular with a thatched roof, enormous four-poster bed and an outside bathroom – much more glamorous than it sounds, with views of palm trees and the sky. This is very much in keeping with the hotel’s ecological ethos and ‘barefoot luxury’ ideals. There is no TV or wi-fi in the rooms (wi-fi can be found in some of the communal areas) and the hotel distils all its own water, and recycles as much as possible. Much of the fruit, vegetables and herbs are grown in their own garden, and there’s even a ‘coconut man’ who is an expert in climbing the trees and picking ripe coconuts.
Coco Palm won ‘Best Eco Resort in the Maldives 2014’; it’s also opening a turtle rescue centre this year in conjunction with the Olive Ridley Project. You can adopt a turtle, or in my case buy a cuddly version to help the cause. Net fishing is banned in the Maldives (fishermen use the more traditional line and pole method) but nets still come over from India and injure many turtles. The odds really are stacked against you if you’re a turtle. Out of a thousand hatched eggs, only one will make it to adulthood; if it’s not a crab or a bird grabbing you on your first ever trip to the reef, it’s another predator in the water, or a net. At least now some of the man-made damage can be balanced out by the new centre.
The hotel has two restaurants and two bars; the Cowrie Restaurant, with a daily changing buffet, was our breakfast and lunch destination. There were stations serving freshly cooked local delicacies and traditional dishes including curries and stir-fries, and an amazing array of sushi and cooked fish. My downfall was the home-made ice-cream. Different flavours every day, including coconut, mango, honey and cinnamon, meant I left the island considerably larger than when I arrived. The Cornus Restaurant, where we ate on the first night after watching the sunset, champagne glass in hand, is an à la carte Thai-inspired restaurant. The beef massaman curry I ordered was fillet steak cooked to perfection, with the sauce on the side; I only just found room for the delicious coconut cheesecake to follow. The service is second-to-none – our waiters almost had a psychic connection with us, knowing what we’d order before we did.
Coco Palm offers a number of trips out from the island. The boats are rustic, but add a sundeck, cold drinks and a multitude of photo opportunities, it’s an unforgettable experience. We were lucky enough to see a huge pod of dolphins on one excursion, and even spotted a turtle on another. We also ventured to the uninhabited island Embudhoo, where you can be dropped off to spend the night in a small villa – the ultimate Maldivian romantic escape. We opted for just a delicious beach barbecue and a walk.
The resort is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of London life. Arriving home a wee bit jet-lagged, I felt as though it had been the most glorious Technicolor dream –until I found half a ton of white sand in my case and stuck to my flip-flops. I’m not really sure the Maldives can spare that much sand, so I’d better start planning another visit so I can safely return it.